Benjamin's doctoral dissertation in progress
My dissertation addresses two related research questions about the links between kinship, remittances and their redistribution.
1. How does kinship, specifically lineage affiliation and genealogical relatedness, shape remitters’ decisions about how much and to whom they remit?
2. How do lineage affiliation and relatedness interact with the redistribution of remittances within recipient communities to shape remitters’ decisions?
These questions emerge from a synthesis of cultural anthropology, evolutionary ecology and the economics of labor migration. Remittances are money and other goods transferred between migrants and their communities of origin. Lineage affiliation refers to kinship by descent from a common ancestor, as among paternal versus maternal kin. Relatedness refers to kinship derived from genetic inheritance, regardless of lineage. Redistribution refers to economic transfers that alter the initial distribution of goods such as remittances.
Field research took place in Saint David Parish, a rural locale in Dominica, a Caribbean island nation. Quantitative research combined social survey and archival data. Quantitative analyses will include social network analysis and linear regression. Qualitative data came from field notes taken during survey questionnaires
The research applies a new conceptual framework that I developed in my Master's thesis to study links between remitters’ decisions and remittance redistribution. This framework will provide insight into remitters’ decisions by examining the influences of bargaining processes in recipient households, which the literature has neglected. The research also studies kinship effects on remittances in more detail than previous approaches, and addresses theoretical issues regarding differential altruism toward kin of varying age and sex. In addition, the study will test the extent to which long-held notions of kinship and sharing in small-scale societies scale up to the transnational context of remittances. This research took place during a Fulbright Scholarship in affiliation with Dominica’s Central Statistics Office, and in collaboration with anthropologists from Washington State University.
The study will impact economic development and foreign aid efforts in three ways. First, it will inform development and aid agencies about how unequal division of resources among recipients may affect remittances to developing nations, which exceed official foreign aid three-fold. Second, it will produce some of the most detailed data to date on remittances and age-and-sex-specific vital rates in Dominica. Third, it will help Dominica’s government compare alternative remittance research methods and assess progress toward United Nations Millennium Development Goals.